Since then, the fate of the IPL has hung in the balance, with talks of late reaching a possibility where the league might go ahead behind closed doors. However, a lot also hinges on what the ICC decides about the men’s T20 World Cup in Australia this October-November. If the ICC decides to postpone that, it will give the BCCI a window to host the league, provided the board gets the government’s clearance to do that.
Even without fans, live cricket will give sports-starved India and the rest of the world something to look forward to, even if it would mean a “marriage without guests”, as Irfan Pathan chose to put it.
“Barati ke bina shaadi adhuri lagti hai (a marriage is incomplete without guests), so we will have the same feeling (IPL without fans) as well,” the former India all-rounder said, talking to Timesofindia.com.
“But barati ke bina bhi shaadi hoti hai. Kai log court mein jaake bhi shaadi karte hain, eventually shaadi hona hai (but marriages do happen without guests, some opt for court marriage, but eventually marriages happen),” he added on a lighter note.
Irfan, who began his stint as a commentator some time back, knows what it feels like to play in front of a packed, electric crowd — especially in grounds in India.
The swing-bowling all-rounder has played for multiple IPL teams during his career, including Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab, Rising Pune Supergiants and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Irfan admitted that sport without spectators is incomplete, but he would accept that, if it brings back live cricket.
“In terms of the whole atmosphere, you cannot have the same atmosphere and the same excitement that you get when the crowd is shouting at batsmen to hit fours and sixes,” the 35-year-old said.
“But looking at the situation, the pandemic, people will still prefer to watch some live cricket. How much old cricket are you going to watch? You always want live cricket because there is excitement, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
On that note, Irfan agreed with India and Royal Challengers captain Virat Kohli that the “magic” will be missing from the on-field action in front of empty stands.
Talking about the possibility of IPL behind closed doors, Kohli had said: “Things will still go on, but I doubt that one will feel that magic happening inside because of the atmosphere that was created. We will play sports how it is supposed to be played, but those magical moments will be difficult to come by.”
Irfan said he couldn’t agree more with Kohli.
“100%, there is no doubt about it. The magic will be missing and I believe without crowds, you won’t have the same kind of feeling,” said Pathan, who holds the world record for a hat-trick in the first over of a Test match.
Pathan achieved that exclusive feat in the third Test of India’s tour of Pakistan in 2006. He played 29 Tests, 120 ODIs and 24 T20Is for India.
The former all-rounder, who was part of MS Dhoni’s 2007 World T20-winning Indian team, went on to add that players are used to playing in front of empty stands in domestic cricket, so it won’t affect their performance as such in the IPL.
“In County cricket, there is a lot of crowd. I used to play for Middlesex and a lot of people used to come and watch a County game. But when you look at any other domestic cricket in the world, even in India in some parts, hardly any crowd comes. So players are used to playing without crowds,” the Baroda man said.
The former left-arm pacer concluded that fans sitting at home would love to watch one of the world’s best cricket leagues, even if the organisers had to shorten the duration of the season.
“It is one of the best leagues in the world, not only in cricket but in terms of other sports as well. People look forward to it everywhere. It will be a treat for the people and something to look forward to every day, even if it is a shorter tournament.”